According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. Victims of distracted driving accidents can include anyone from drivers and passengers to pedestrians and bicyclists. Sadly, the results can be devastating.
In the past, we’ve shared five things to do if you’ve been in an accident. Now, here’s what you need to know about distracted driving so that, hopefully, you and your loved ones can avoid having an accident altogether.
There are three main types of distraction when it comes to driving. Our attention can be pulled away from the road due to visual, manual and/or cognitive distractions. Let’s break each category down:
- Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
- Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: Taking your mind off of driving
Texting is such a deadly and notorious distraction because it falls into all three categories of distraction – visual, manual and cognitive. According to the CDC, sending or reading a text message can mean taking your eyes off the road for about five seconds, which – while driving at 55 mph – is long enough to cover the length a football field.
According to New York State, the “Driver Inattention/Distraction” category is the leading category in both property damage and personal injury crashes, and related crashes are on the rise – going from 57,006 in 2017 to 87,728 in 2018. Not only is distracted driving is dangerous, but, in many states, it is also illegal. To find out more about New York’s laws related to distracted driving, visit: https://www.troopers.ny.gov/Traffic_Safety/Distracted_Driving/.
Another compelling statistic – the CDC states that drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes. You should talk to your children and loved ones about distracted driving, echoing the name of AT&T’s distracted driving campaign: “It can wait.” That phone call, text, email or notification is far less important than your life and safety. If you must respond, wait until you can safely pull over and put your car in park before picking up your device. Making the conscious choice to focus on the road and not on your phone could save lives and avoid life-changing consequences.
If you can, connect your phone to your car’s Bluetooth system for emergency calls and keep your phone out of reach to minimize distraction. Most phones have the option to turn on “driving mode” which allows you to set an automatic reply letting people know that you are driving and will get back to them soon. You should also set your phone’s GPS before you leave if you need it to navigate and raise the volume so you can listen, rather than look, at the screen.
Remember, there are multiple categories of distractions and they can go far beyond our glowing screens. An accident can occur when a driver is tired, eating, talking to passengers, in deep thought, handing things to passengers or interacting with a pet that’s along for the ride. Ultimately, no matter how a driver becomes distracted, taking their eyes or mind off the road and removing their hands from the wheel, even for a moment, can have tragic outcomes. Distracted driving could lead to damaged vehicles or property, painful injuries, lawsuits, jail time or – in the worst-case scenario – fatalities. If you’re faced with distractions, pull over, utilize public transportation or a ride-sharing service, ask someone else to drive and do whatever it takes to minimize distractions to protect you and those around you.